I am kinda following in my daughter’s footsteps these days, feeling drawn to YA stories with a little romance. But the draw I feel tends to have said romance as a byproduct of another story line including some massive life tension and struggle. I like hearing how authors introduce and resolve the challenges of the story, and I like searching into how realistic the solution they come up with is. One theme I really appreciate is hope; I look for that theme routinely in the stories I read.
Anthem for Jackson Dawes is one such story. Being treated for brain cancer, Megan is in the hospital for the first time getting chemo. Within seconds of arriving on the children’s floor, Jackson Dawes enters Megan’s life. Literally. He trumps right into her room, forcing himself into her life. She is none too receptive to any visitor, but her wishes go disregarded by Jackson. After Jackson finally leaves her room, she begins to witness who Jackson is on this ward: the Pied Piper of the sick youngsters who inhabit the floor, the escape artist who explores the rest of the hospital on sleepless nights, and the dear one to the medical staff. As Megan’s treatment continues, she and Jackson grow closer, and Meghan takes off with him at night, breaking all sorts of rules as they maneuver their challenging illnesses and the escape hatch the giant hospital offers. While the title makes it obvious that Jackson passes, it is Megan’s life that holds center stage: the twists and turns of life, finding her way to live with cancer, her transitions from relying on her family to allowing herself to grow closer to her new friend and taking risks that fill her all come together to create a storyline that is engaging, creative, and realistic from what I can tell. Granted I have not had cancer, so I would like to know how realistic the author’s exploration of that topic is and that didn’t stop me. I feel as if Jackson Dawes could live in my life and as if in small ways, Megan’s internal challenges mimic mine. To me, those qualities make for good reading.